THE overwhelming amount of correspondence about the cessation of the Kenwood concerts shows the strong feelings generated on both sides, but those who criticise Camden and the so-called nimbys


THE overwhelming amount of correspondence about the cessation of the Kenwood concerts shows the strong feelings generated on both sides, but those who criticise Camden and the so-called nimbys conveniently choose to ignore both the root cause and the original concept of the concerts.

Sir Frank Wright, the founder of the original classical concerts, would certainly be turning in his grave, as suggested by Stephen Porter in an earlier letter, but for very different reasons.

His original concept, as accurately described by Jennifer Radice (H&H letters, March 1), was of beautiful music to enhance beautiful surroundings. Like her, I have many happy memories of walking across the Heath with friends from Hampstead to Kenwood in joyful anticipation of an enjoyable evening, then lying on the grass listening to the unamplified strains of Mozart, Beethoven or operatic arias floating across the lake from the original concert bowl, and walking back afterwards in the dark. It did not matter that some notes would be lost to the wind or a passing jet plane - that was part of the experience. Even then, inconsiderate visitors would talk through and walk about during the music.

The founder would have been horrified at the total change in concept, the showbiz style of promotion, the noise, the ugly floating platform on the lake which destroyed the classic view throughout the summer (erected without planning permission), the huge crowds generated and the fireworks set off after every concert, every Saturday night right through the height of the summer season for ten weeks.

If those who criticise locals for complaining had the same noise on their doorstep every Saturday night through the whole summer, they would soon be on to the local council. The noise affected not just those few who complained but anyone living around the Heath and those who just want a peaceful Heath walk in the evening.

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Similarly, using fireworks after every concert destroyed the novelty and anticipation of their one use on the former last night where they became part of the Tchaikovsky 1912 Overture with cannon effects. It disturbed and terrified all the wild life, animals and birds in the area, to say nothing of domestic pets and their owners.

If patrons want this sort of event, there are hundreds of bars, night clubs and pubs around Camden and the West End, but Kenwood is not Wembley Stadium, despite what IMG seem to think. English Heritage are supposed to be guardians of the setting but seem to care little about what their contractors have done to ruin it.

EH in their greed, desperation for cash, insensitivity to the site and the total lack of principle brought in a showbiz organisation without thinking through the consequences, and their abrupt decision to cancel this year smacks of pique and poor financial planning. It is hardly surprising they cannot make a profit if you consider the ludicrous fees charged by some so-called artists, probably exceeding the cost of a whole classical orchestra, the sound equipment and amplifiers, technicians, bouncers, special security fencing, support staff and the tremendous costs of setting up and dismantling and clearing away litter and mess afterwards, apart from the chaos caused by traffic congestion itself leading to parking restrictions. They also failed to obtain planning permission for the ugly floating platform and in the past have often closed Kenwood to the public for private events, against the principles of its generous donor.

With classical music, because there was no amplification, there were no complaints of noise, simple picket fencing provided to define the paying area, box office and toilets, and no need for traffic restrictions because most people either came by the 210 bus or walked across the Heath from Hampstead tube or Highgate. Whatever the type of music played, if there was no amplification there would be no need for a special floating platform, probably far less crowds, and no complaints, and the whole issue would not have arisen.

Jennifer Radice's letter summarises exactly my feelings and I hope her appeal for generous benefactors to restore the original concept reaches the right ears.


Thurlow Road, NW3


Once upon a time before global warming, many a concert was a washout, nevertheless diehard concertgoers would sit in their pacamacs eating soggy sandwiches. In recent years we have had wonderful warm balmy evenings when people would sit cheek by jowl, young and old, sharing picnics while the toffs would be in the 'posh' deckchairs swilling champagne.

But there were no class barriers here, everyone came to hear the music, from Bach to Beethoven, Mozart to Mendelssohn and, at the end of the season, the Last Night of the Proms. Everyone sang their hearts out, flags waved and the applause could be heard from here to heaven.

That's what probably upset the grumpy little man. 64,000 people have been enjoying these concerts for years and years, it's a magical night under the stars listening to the strings of a wonderful orchestra across the pond, where even the wildfowl glide by to sit and listen. Then, as the sun sets and the evening chill brings out the sweaters, the little lamps start to light up all over the hill. Even though the drink has flowed, there is no rowdy behaviour, no bad language, it is a shared joyous experience.

Yes, this summer the hills will be silent, but the streets will be alive with the sound of gun shots.


Harmony Close, NW11